Mumbai: After BMW catches fire, owner says automaker slow to respond and is treating matter lightly

When it comes to German automobiles, the first thought that comes to mind —before their precision engineering, design and luxurious interiors—is safety.

Sanjay Tripathy, co-founder and CEO Agilio (ex-senior executive vice president of HDFC Life) who is based in Mumbai, said that this is precisely why he bought a BMW and took for granted that he and his family would be safe.

The BMW 3 Series sedan caught fire by itself. Facebook, Sanjay Tripathy

Security guards inspecting the BMW. Image courtesy: Facebook, Sanjay Tripathy

On Monday, Tripathy pulled his 2011 BMW 320D out of his parking space at 7 am. Tripathy was driving his daughter to school. Tripathy was stopped by a frantic security guard of his building Marathon Era, Lower Parel.

Tripathy wondered what had happened and thought he'd accidentally turned on his headlights. Tripathy checked his dashboard, however, the security guard walked up and knocked on his window.

"There's a fire under your car," the security guard told him.  Alarmed, Tripathy and his daughter jumped out of the car and rushed away. Tripathy was shocked to see flames under the engine.

CCTV footage revealed flames emanating from the front half of the vehicle as Tripathy began pulling out of the parking lot.

What initially looked like sparks turned into a small fire below the engine as Tripathy reached the compound gates.

A few security guards rushed to the scene and doused the fire with water and an extinguisher. It took five guards to put out the fire and they resorted to using a hose to douse the flames completely.

Tripathy then called the BMW roadside assistance helpline. Tripathy was taken aback when the BMW agent stated that there was no need to worry as Tripathy was safe. Tripathy felt the agent was taking the situation rather lightly. Tripathy responded by saying that it was a serious matter and that his life and the life of his daughter had been in jeopardy.

Tripathy was then informed that because the vehicle was more than five years old, repairs would not be free. The agent insisted that Tripathy contact the dealership from which he purchased the car.

However, when Tripathy attempted to contact the dealership multiple times, there was no answer. Tripathy said he felt exasperated and that he expected more from an international brand.

“It's so unexpected. You don't expect a car—especially a BMW—to just catch fire," Tripathy told Firstpost.

Tripathy said he voiced his displeasure on Twitter. Around 11 am, he got a call from a BMW representative. However, Tripathy said they were unable to assist him.

Tripathy said he only received help after a friend got in touch with BMW.

“The response has been rather disappointing," Tripathy said, adding that the vehicle was taken for repairs at noon.

The car was  a 2011 BMW 320D (BMW 3 Series), a vehicle that was part of a BMW recall that was issued in the first week of November by BMW North America.

The German automaker on 3 November issued two recalls, according to a Reuters report.

One recall covered around 6,70,000 vehicles sold between 2006-2011 in the United States.

This included the popular 3 Series vehicles, which BMW said had a wiring issue for the heating and air-conditioning systems, one that could potentially overheat and increase the risk of fire.

The second recall encompassed another 7,40,000 vehicles sold between 2007-2011.

These had to do with troubles in the valve heater which could rust and lead to a fire.

“Unfortunately in India, most manufacturers take customers for granted," Tripathy stated, adding that this incident has dented his confidence in BMW.

The first instance of a BMW 3 Series catching fire came to light in 2008.

Firstpost has reached out to BMW India for comment.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Nov 13, 2017 18:35 PM

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